I like games... and tattoos. Yes, those.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Adidas South Africa 2013 Brand Ambassador

So after the very successful Adidas #Represent campaign that I was part of earlier this year, I'm super pleased to announce that Adidas South Africa have offered me a Brand Endorsement for 2013!

Thanks to everyone for the great feedback for the #Represent campaign, here's looking forward to even bigger and better things in 2013.

And just in case you missed out on #Represent



Behind The Scenes


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Just Dance 4 Fitness Challenge - Competition Winner

So the Just Dance 4 Fitness challenge is at an end, thanks to the people who made the effort to enter the competition :)

The winner is Natasha Archary! Well done, that Just Dance 4 hamper will be on its way to you soon :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Just Dance 4 Fitness Challenge - Week 5

So this is the final week of the Just Dance 4 Fitness Challenge I've been running over the month of November. Unfortunately I didn't get around to posting this weeks video yesterday, but I thought I'd save the best for last - I'm a bit old school in the fact that one of my favourite songs on the Just Dance tracklist is Barry White's My First, My Last, My Everything... :)


Thanks to everyone who participated, hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! You still have time to get your entries in via Facebook, Twitter or email - The comp for the Just Dance 4 hamper closes on Friday, I'll announce the winner next week Monday :)


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Borderlands 2 - Review

This review has taken me a while, I won't deny it. If you listen to UJFM at all you might have heard me review it as a part of my Friday morning segment for The Arcade, however a combination of factors has meant that I never quite had a chance to write a full review for my blog. I was somewhat harshly prodded by one of my Twitter followers however (not to worry @violentdreamer you are completely correct!), and so thought I better get my ass into gear and post up the review.

So here it is, in all it's glory. Buuuuuut, first let's start with a trailer.



Borderlands 2 is the sequel to the somewhat surprise 2009 hit Borderlands. And I'll be honest, whilst I liked Borderlands 1, I wasn't so in love with it that I felt this absolute need to pre-order Borderlands 2.

Maybe I got caught up in the hype... maybe I saw so many trailers that it started to grow on me... I don't know, but by the time it was released (even along with the shipping disaster that delayed it here in South Africa) it was a game I was looking forward to immensely.

So what is the premise behind Borderlands 2? Well, five years have passed since the events in Borderlands, when four Vault hunters guided by the "Guardian Angel" confronted and defeated the Destroyer. A valuable mineral called Eridium now flourishes in Pandora and Handsome Jack, a member of the Hyperion Corporation, ruthlessly controls the planet's Eridium resources. Rumours of a large Vault are drawing more Vault Hunters to Pandora.

Sounds vaguely cheesy sure, but the best part about Borderlands has always been that it isn't afraid to embrace humour, an integral part of this game exemplified by Claptrap, the robot.

Borderlands 2 (and indeed the first game can be categorised in the same manner) is what Gearbox Software call a role-playing shooter. In essence it's neither as complex as a more traditional RPG game nor as violent and intense as most FPS games, but it does combine the two genres in an enjoyable if slightly more simplistic way. As in many RPG's you develop your skills via skill trees, earning and spending experience points and becoming proficient in certain weapons. You can level up and head down the path towards your chosen specialisation.

Introduced this time around is a somewhat more comprehensive weapons customisation ability as well as more focus on vehicles, and a more intelligent AI, both friendly and enemy.

Visually this game relies on the same cartoon look of the original, which somehow always brings back fond memories of XIII. The world is vibrant, immersive and enjoyable as a space in which to interact with both co-op partners as well as AI, and sucks you in both visually and narratively.

If you thought the loot was cool in the first game, well it just got a whole lot better! Borderlands 2 relies on the fact that you must loot EVERYTHING! And that is totally capitalised on purpose. There are so many new weapons on offer that even the most discerning weapons fanatic is spoiled for choice. The best part is that you really need to adapt your strategy and gameplay style depending on which weapon you're using. Each new weapon is a game changer, keeping combat fresh throughout the campaign.

Exploration is absolutely key to gameplay in Borderlands 2, and with such varied beasts and bad guys on Pandora, this is something you could do for hours without even completing a mission. There are however enough missions to keep you occupied for a good 30 - 40 hours depending on whether or not you're obsessive like me and insist on finishing side quests. To a large degree you'll also find more innovation and creativity evident in the side missions than you will in the body of the game's campaign.

Narrative wise this story is so much better than the first game, which to be honest I barely remember. Oh sure I could tell you the basic premise, but it would be filled with many um's as I tried to piece together the story in between memories of looting. In Borderlands 2 this is helped by the wonderful voice acting coupled with the decision to bring back the Vault hunters from the first game.

Whilst I haven't played as much co-op as I would have liked to (time constraints being the primary reason), the little I have played has been plagued by a few annoying bugs but otherwise has been overall an enjoyable experience. The major gripe has been the difference in player levels and the unbalanced gameplay here. The host dictates the level of enemies, which makes the game ridiculously hard for low level players and a walk in the park for higher level players. That said, if you're playing with friends who are much the same level as you, the co-op is immensely gratifying.

So in a nutshell what are the negatives of this game? Well as mentioned there are some nagging issues with co-op, and if you revisit previous areas at a later stage (and higher level) enemies don't respawn at an appropriate level. If you're just looking to take your frustration out on some bad guys then maybe this isn't a problem, but somehow it doesn't feel like much of a challenge.

In essence, Borderlands 2 is much like Borderlands 1. But better. MUCH better in fact. If you're into quirky FPS games that encourage downright fun and don't mind exploring the RPG side of things, then I cannot recommend this game enough.

Quirky, humorous, fun, beautiful - all of these are words that describe Borderlands 2, and the occasional complaint doesn't really detract from what is a must buy title for 2012.

To end off here's a look at the latest DLC offering from the Borderlands 2 team - Mr Torgue's Campaign of Carnage.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Just Dance Fitness Challenge - Week 4

So it might not seem like I've been doing much, as I haven't been posting as regularly as I would like. Sadly time constraints are always a bit of a bugger when it come to things like these, but I have actually been doing the challenge even if I haven't been blogging about it.

So this week is the 4th week of the Just Dance 4 Fitness Challenge that I'm running in conjunction with UJFM and the lovely folks over at Megarom/Ubisoft. “

The song for this week is one of the most cheesy and also one of the most fun dances to do, especially if you're dancing with friends, so I thought I'd post the actual Just Dance video that someone so kindly posted on Youtube.

So here it is, Panjabi MC - Beware of the Boyz



A reminder that to win the Just Dance 4 hamper you'll need to enter a video of yourself dancing to one of the songs I've listed so far (the last couple of weeks were Call Me Maybe and Wild Wild West) and email it to me on unexpectedpippa@gmail.com

OR

Upload it to my Facebook fan page

OR

Tweet it to me @unexpectedpippa and hashtag #JD4Fitness

The competition will run until the 30th November at which stage I'll pick a winner with the help of UJFM

Monday, November 12, 2012

Assassins Creed 3 - Review



I'm going to start off by saying that I really was not a big fan of Assassins Creed II, nor Brotherhood or Revelations.

You can hate me for that, I don't mind, but be that as it may, it meant that I was conflicted when I saw the first trailer for Assassins Creed III. Just in case you don't remember it... well, here you go.



I was conflicted because on one hand this trailer made me feel the way I felt when I saw the trailer for the first Assassins Creed, but on the other hand, my dislike of the other games jaded me. As each new trailer was released however, the more I wanted to play this game... and finally on release it was one of the games I had been looking forward to most all year.

Does it live up to the hype however? Were my expectations justified, or was this just another running, jumping, somewhat formulaic Assassins Creed game?

Well let's take a look shall we? And start at the beginning... What is Assassins Creed III actually about, and how does it tie in to the story of Altair, Ezio and Desmond Miles?

The game is set in Colonial America and as always the Assassin/Templar war is a bitter one that is now amplified by the setting of the American Revolution and the slave trade.

You play as two main characters in this game (besides Desmond), albeit one only briefly. You start the game as Haytham Kenway as he sails to America in order to track down and attempt to access a temple with a medallion he possesses. You later switch to playing as Connor, Haytham's half Mohawk son (I won't go into the details of that, you can let the story play out for yourself), and the story then spans 30 years of Connor's life, from the time that he leaves his village to begin his training as an Assassin, to his battle with the Templars.

As always, Desmond Miles plays a part in this story, on his quest to save the world from some or other threat. Without spoiling the story I can only say that there are some wonderful twists, and equally wonderful moments in this game that really push the enjoyment of the series to new heights.

Gameplay wise there a couple of new additions, including muskets, rifles, mobile hiding places and disguises, all of which greatly enhance the gameplay and provide and added sense of depth to the game. Overall though, for anyone who has played any of the previous AC games, its essence remains largely unchanged and the learning curve is definitely not a steep one. A couple of minor tweaks to the freerun system as well have also made for an incredibly enjoyable experience.

Another addition (and this is the kind of feature of which I am particularly fond in games such as these) is the improved fast travel map. This of course makes it infinitely easier to travel between locations, a feature that is essential to people like me who are lazy and don't want to travel through miles of countryside a million times over.

Two other features that I feel the need to mention, mainly because I feel they are significantly improved and deserve notice, are looting and blending. Both have been tweaked and are now infinitely more intuitive overall.

As per usual there are a multitude of side quests, but somehow I enjoyed them more thoroughly in ACIII than in any previous AC game. The game is not quite as open world as some would have you believe, which means that some of the side quests can become a bit formulaic, however there is enough variety to keep you entertained for a fair amount of time outside of the official campaign.

Now lets get on to the part you all love the most. Combat. This is both a strength and a weakness of AC3. The introduction of firearms, whilst awesome even with the long reload times, is also a bit, uh, weird. For example, you can make a "stealth" kill with a firearm, with other enemies standing literally a couple of metres from the person you have assassinated. Uh, sorry did you not hear the gunshot right next to you? Whilst it might be convenient to exploit this poor piece of gameplay it does also break the spell and detracts somewhat from the stealth aspect of an otherwise beautifully made game.

Your main character is also largely unstoppable, which means for many gamers combat will be a little too easy, requiring you to merely watch for the pattern of attack and then block and counter appropriately.

It's not to say that you will never die whilst playing, however the likelihood of this happening gets smaller the further you progress into the game.

Despite my criticisms, the American Revolution as depicted in the world of Assassins Creed III is rich and beautifully imagined. A definite improvement on the previous games, and one that, if you're like me and have become somewhat disillusioned with the series, will grab you by your shirt and shake some sense back into you.

And just to reiterate why you should be playing this game... Here's another trailer :)


Assassins Creed III might not be perfect, but it's definitely a game that you should be playing, even if you have let your enjoyment of the series lapse in recent years.


Just Dance Fitness Challenge - Week 3

This is the third week of the Just Dance Fitness Challenge that I'm running in conjunction with UJFM, and this week's song is We No Speak No Americano.


A reminder that to win the Just Dance 4 hamper you'll need to enter a video of yourself dancing to one of the songs I've listed so far (the last couple of weeks were Call Me Maybe and Wild Wild West) and email it to me on unexpectedpippa@gmail.com

OR

Upload it to my Facebook fan page

OR

Tweet it to me @unexpectedpippa and hashtag #JD4Fitness

The competition will run until the 30th November at which stage I'll pick a winner with the help of UJFM

Monday, November 5, 2012

Just Dance 4 Fitness Challenge - Week 2

So this is the start of the second week of the Just Dance 4 Fitness Challenge I will be running until the 30th November. What started out quite well for me went a bit belly up mid way through the week when I was horribly sick and in bed for four days, so standing was out of the question, let alone dancing, and certainly not the best way to spend a weekend!

I am now armed with antibiotics however, and so week 2 kicks off with this video - Will Smith's Wild Wild West.



A reminder that to win, you'll need to enter a video of yourself dancing to that song (recorded on your phone is fine) and email it to me on unexpectedpippa@gmail.com

OR

Upload it to my Facebook fan page

OR

Tweet it to me @unexpectedpippa with the hashtag #JD4Fitness

The competition will run until the 30th November, at which stage I'll pick a winner with the help of UJFM

Monday, October 29, 2012

Just Dance 4 Fitness Challenge - Week 1

Right, so I'm kicking off the Just Dance 4 Fitness Challenge today, with Call Me Maybe, one of the songs from the tracklist of Just Dance 4.



A reminder that to win, you'll need to enter a video of yourself dancing to that song (recorded on your phone is fine) and email it to me on unexpectedpippa@gmail.com

OR

Upload it to my Facebook fan page

OR

Tweet it to me @unexpectedpippa with the hashtag #JD4Fitness

The competition will run until the 30th November, at which stage I'll pick a winner with the help of UJFM

I'll also be uploading a video of myself a couple of times a week, dancing to Just Dance 4, just so you don't feel completely silly doing it yourself ;)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Just Dance 4 Fitness Challenge



I only recently was fortunate enough (depending on your views) to obtain a Kinect for my XBox. Sure, when we produced The Verge we had one in the office, but I never owned one at home, and so it means that the kind of enjoyment you get out of certain games in the comfort of your own home is markedly different to the ways in which you utilise them in a working environment.

For example, jumping around like a complete nana (yes, I said it) in the middle of an office with people watching you, when you are by no means even slightly inebriated, is much more painful to your ego (and sometimes physically as well as you tend to bang into things) than doing the same thing in your own living room. 

In this case I equate this to the gym experience. Some people go to gym because they like other people to watch them get fit and "check out their muscles boet", whereas others (yes, like myself) avoid gyms for this very reason. I prefer to both exercise and Kinect in a much more secluded environment where people can't really watch me and see how silly I look.

Speaking of exercise, I used to run. And then I had a kid... Those of you who have children will know that this means that your time now becomes much more limited, and things like going for a run (not running around after your children, mind) after you get home from work at 6 o clock are not really at the top of your To Do list.

And so... after plugging in my Kinect, the memories of people looking silly at rAge still fresh in my mind, I obtained a copy of Just Dance 4 from the good folks over at Ubisoft. And whilst I would not yet say that I am a Just Dance convert, I'm surprisingly enjoying it more than I would have thought.

The best part? Yes, it's the Autodance feature. The first day I played I did a whole lot of different dances just so I could watch the Autodance at the end. Sad? Yeah ok maybe. But most interestingly, exhausting!



It was with this in mind that I have decided to start a month long Just Dance 4 Fitness Challenge. Yes, since I no longer have as much time as I would like to exercise, I figured, why the hell not just do a few dances every day and see if the claims of any of these dancing games are valid in any way.

I'm not just doing it and documenting it for your pleasure (and amusement) either... Ubisoft have been kind enough to give me a hamper of Just Dance 4 goodies to give away, and the folks over at UJFM (where I present a radio spot every Friday morning) have also gotten on board to get the word out there.

A couple of times a week I'll upload an Autodance clip of me looking completely silly, as well as keep track of my progress, whether it's good or bad. I'm aiming to make sure that I do at least a half an hour of silly dancing stuff 6 days a week, which I think is pretty fair.



So what do you need to do to win this hamper? Well, it will of course be easier if you follow me, @unexpectedpippa @ujfm and @renestweeting on Twitter, although I won't hold you to that. But that way you can keep track of what's going on. 

Every week I'll pick a song from the Just Dance 4 tracklist, and you need to send me a video clip (it can be on your phone) of you dancing to that song. No, of course it doesn't have to be on Just Dance because yes I know you probably won't have the game yet or you wouldn't be entering! Just upload a clip of you dancing like no-ones watching to my Facebook Page, tweet it to me with the #JD4Fitness or email it to me on unexpectedpippa@gmail.com and you could stand in line to win a Just Dance 4 hamper that includes the game, a shirt, a togbag and a couple of other goodies as well. 

So let's recap:

1. Competition starts on Monday 29 October 2012 (I want to run it for 5 full weeks).
2. I'll post up the title of a song from Just Dance 4 at the beginning of every week.
3. You send in a clip to either my Facebook page or my email address with you dancing to that song.
4. Competition closes 30 November 2012.
5. I'll pick a winner over the weekend and notify you so you can collect your prize.

In return you'll get to see me being silly and hopefully getting fitter after a months dancing to Just Dance 4. Will it get me even vaguely fitter than I am now? Who knows, but this is the silliest and most fun way I can think of to try...


If you already own a copy of Just Dance (any version) and are simply looking for motivation to use it to get fitter, or just want to participate for sh*ts and giggles, please feel free to send me clips (Autodance or otherwise) or simply let me know how it's going - I'd love to see if anyone else has any success :)


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review - Darksiders II




The only two things one can be certain about in life, is death and taxes. Or something like that. The point however, is that we are talking about Death. 

The person. 

Character. 

Anthropomorphic personification.




Yeah, that guy.

Death is one of the four horseman of the Apocalypse, and if you played the first Darksiders game, you'll know that it focused on Death's brother, War.

Darksiders II's story runs parallel to much of what goes on in Darksiders I. As a quick recap, War was framed for bringing about the End War, or the Apocalypse prematurely. He was captured, convicted for his crimes by the Charred Council and now awaits their judgement.

In Darksiders 2, Death sets out on a mission to prove his brother's innocence, and travels to the nether realms to call in some favours from some powerful beings. Which considering the fact that he's the only thing certain in life apart from the tax man is pretty weird when you think about it... I mean surely he's the most powerful of all beings? 

Anyway, I digress. Moving on.

The gameplay isn't much different from the previous game, although Death has some fancier moves more akin to Prince of Persia than anything else, including things like wall running, and I'll be honest, much as it's fun and I enjoyed the PoP games, I feel the same way about this as I did about Enslaved, which I also felt ripped a lot of it's gameplay from PoP. It's not to say that it's not well executed, in fact both Enslaved and Darksiders II have implemented this particularly well, but it lacks originality.




Anyway, Death wields dual scythes, which I'll be honest, looks pretty damn slick, and his combat is smooth and quick, with the standard moves complimented beautifully with some cool power attacks. You can also purchase additional moves as you progress through the game, meaning by the time you reach the end, you have a pretty amazing arsenal of tricks up your sleeves. Robes. Whatever.

There are some RPG elements added to this action adventure, with a lot more focus on picking up loot than in the previous game. Death can level up as well at certain points, so it seems that the RPG element carries through in more ways than one. This is definitely a good addition as it provides some motivation to go around searching for chests and the like. 

The level design and the puzzles aren't particularly engaging however, and in this vast and rather empty landscape it often feels as if you're simply traversing from place to place, fighting enemies as you go, without much else to do. To break the tedium you can travel on Death's awesome horse Despair, but even that loses it's lustre after a while.

The combat however is where Darksiders 2 really shines even if the story isn't quite as good as War's. The boss battles are mostly fun and exciting, with Death's special reaper finishing moves really providing a spectacular climax to an amazing battle. There are also a few battles where you really have to think strategically to win, and this makes a nice change to some of the more straightforward fights.

The gameplay mechanics are definitely improved from the first game, although it can become somewhat monotonous, making the game drag at times.

The visual style is beautiful, and much more refined than Darksiders I, but to be honest this isn't really enough to pull it from a good game to a great game.

Darksiders 2 is worth the play, particularly if you were a fan of the first one. Don't expect anything really amazing however, you're really just playing this one to see how the story ends...



Monday, August 27, 2012

Review - Sleeping Dogs




Sleeping Dogs, published by Square Enix, is a game that flew under the radar for many people, and although we'd seen one or two mentions, game critics had practically forgotten about it until a month or so before it's release.

The first impression you get of this game is that it's Grand Theft Auto set in Hong Kong - and not in the awful way the Yakuza games tried to do the same kind of thing, except in Japan obviously. Nope, this actually looks cool.

For those of you familiar with the True Crime series, you'll be pleased to know that this is True Crime 3. Literally. It was initially announced by Activision as True Crime: Hong Kong, then cancelled because of budget overruns, and ultimately picked up by Square Enix and renamed Sleeping Dogs because, well they bought the game but they didn't buy the naming rights.

Now, partly because I'm a Grand Theft Auto fiend and partly because there are so many similarities to the iconic sandbox series, my immediate instinct is to compare the two, which I don't think is entirely fair. Nevertheless it seems likely that most people will do the same, so we might as well go with it.

Lets start with the somewhat unoriginal storyline. You're an undercover cop, Wei Shen, sent into deep cover with a Triad gang. Wei has been told to infiltrate the gang and take them down. The story is set in a fictional Hong Kong, and deals firstly with Wei's personal struggles between his duties as a police officer, compared to the tasks he's forced to perform to prove himself to the Triads.




In typical fashion for a crime slash moral choice game like this, he has to complete missions set for him by a Triad boss, as well as a host of other contacts he makes along the way. Everybody wants something! Typical...

The story isn't particularly inspiring, but it's not bad overall – certainly no worse than many other games I've played. The missions are not great, and lack innovation but is this really something we see a lot of in many games of this genre?

Now on to the gameplay. Each mission is scored according to your criminal performance, your police officer performance and your all round kickassness. Yes, I made that word up. Again, nothing original in the implementation of the whole moral code aspect of things, especially since it doesn't really have much impact on the storyline, but certainly enjoyable enough to keep you playing.

The animation is slightly stiffer than the kind Rockstar churns out, and whilst this isn't a major gripe it is something that drops the bar just that little bit. Another seemingly small but ultimately irritating thing is the music. Its not annoying in and of itself, but rather every time you get into a car or onto a bike, it appears to start the same track over again. Maybe it's just me, but I swear if i have to hear the same few opening bars one more time...!



Visually the game is in many ways an homage to iconic martial arts movies, where everyone knows how to kick ass, and only ever attacks one at a time, yelling insanely all the while. It's enjoyable and the fighting style quite clearly owes a great deal to the Batman games, as you attack, counter attack and dodge in much the same manner. Hand to hand combat is more prevalent than gun play, so don't expect to spend huge amounts of time aiming down a scope.

Again, much like it's GTA influence, you can date girls, sing karaoke, and complete a host of side missions to while away the time as you take a break from crime. The story sadly is relatively short, only about 14 or 15 hours in total, which means you can play through in a day or two if you don't have anything else to do with your time.

Back now to our comparison with GTA. I'll use GTA 4 as an example because it's the most recent of the franchise. I've heard many people argue that Sleeping Dogs is visually superior to GTA, and I wouldn't dispute this. GTA 4 is game published in 2008 however, so I would actually hope that the graphics were vastly improved in that respect.




The missions are clearly inspired by not only GTA, but the car chases from arcade racers like Need for Speed for example, but the difference is that Sleeping Dogs does appear to have stitched the aspects of different games together rather well. Yes perhaps the game does remind you of too many different things, but overall you come away with a rather good feeling about it.

If you're a fan of open world sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row, you'll feel a sense of irritation in the first couple of hours of playing Sleeping Dogs. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, you'll realise that you're loving it.

No, it's not the best sandbox game to be released, but it's a fun, engaging and well put together tribute to martial arts and the art of Hong Kong cinema that is not left wanting. Go out and buy it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Gamescom 2012

Gamescom is one of the gaming trade shows that everyone knows about and most journalists attend, but which often receives very little in terms of hype.

When E3 rolled around this year my news feed was flooded with "live feed" updates from other games journalists. E3 was all that was on everyone's lips.

Come Gamescom however, I've mostly had to go and look for stuff, which is somewhat weird considering this is the E3 of Europe.

Anyway, in case some of you don't follow me on Twitter, I've provided links to all the trailers from various publishers below. Some look awesome... some meh...

I'll post more as they appear, but here's the eye candy from the first few days :)

Try not to wet your pants ok?


Silent Hunter Online



Routine



007 Legends



Hitman: Absolution Contracts Mode



Tokyo Jungle



Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time



Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Multiplayer



Resident Evil 6



Rain



Tearaway



Killzone Mercenary



Star Trek



Lost Planet 3



Puppeteer



Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale



Until Dawn



God of War: Ascension Multiplayer



The Last of Us



Assassins Creed 3: Liberation



Dead Space 3



Remember Me Announcement and Gameplay trailers




Need For Speed Most Wanted



Crysis 3 Hunter Mode



Battlefield 3 Premium



Devil May Cry



Army of Two Devils Cartel



Assassins Creed 3








Sunday, August 5, 2012

Shhhh! Be vewy vewy quiet! If you listen carefully...



I have been exceedingly quiet of late I know. With a number of different projects on the cards and in the works, there simply hasn't been time to post here and get all the bits and pieces done.

Exciting things are coming up in the next couple of months however! And I'm not just talking on the personal front!

If you listen carefully you can hear the gaming world take an enormous breath before it explodes in a cacophony of activity for the next few months.

Gamescom 2012 is almost upon us, running from the 15th - 19th August this year in Cologne, Germany and there is no doubt that all the usual big names will be there. With any luck there will also be some big announcements and of course if you follow any devs on Twitter, your feed will be flooded within seconds.

On the local front, something that I'm both looking forward to and have the good fortune to be involved in is A MAZE Interact Johannesburg. The A MAZE Festival runs from the 28th August until the 2nd September in Joburg and combines Art, Music, Play and all round Gaming goodness.

And lastly of course, we are in the final run up to rAge, South Africa's gaming expo, held right here in Joburg every year. Only 60 days to go, rAge is held on the first weekend of October at the Coca-Cola Dome in Northgate, which this year falls between the 5th-7th.

We might have been through a quiet patch these last couple of months, but that's all just in preparation for the hype that is about to hit the gaming world.

Be Prepared!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

WiiU. Actually this is more about ZombieU

So I was recently invited to the launch of the WiiU. I can't say that this is something that I thought would be amazing, not because the tech and press hasn't been great, but really, what else could they do that hasn't been thought of in one manner or another?

Boy was I wrong!



Whilst I'm probably not going to spend hours playing Animal Crossing or Luigi's Ghost Mansion (although it definitely was fun playing both at the launch) I want a WiiU for one game alone.

ZombiU.

Yes, that's right. I want to play a zombie game on the WiiU.

I never thought those words would come out of my um... hands...

First up - ZombiU trailer with awesome version of God Save The Queen...



The control system is intuitive, and the WiiU screen is like having something akin to a datapad, where you can access your inventory and scan the environment, as well as use the controls to aim and shoot.

Contrary to what we've come to expect from the Wii, the graphics of ZombiU are slick and well rendered, although since Nintendo is a little late to the party with regards to HD, I'm interested to see how well they'll stand up to the next gen of Playstations and XBoxes that are sure to hit the market in the coming years.

I can't really comment much on the storyline as I didn't get to play it for hours on end, but one thing that needs to be discussed is the process of dying and respawning.

As would be expected in a real Zombie Apocalypse, if you get killed by a zombie, you become a zombie. Yup. That's right - game over. Or so I was told by the Nintendo peeps.

If you die, you respawn as a different character and must track down your old character to get any loot you had collected previously.

I'm not quite certain how this is going to function in the finished game, but it's certainly an exciting concept!

Anyway, here's a little gameplay demo...



Sunday, July 1, 2012

Prometheus


So, continuing in the vein of things that happened while I was getting a new job and hiding away from the people who follow my musings on various social networks...

I was recently invited to the media screening of Prometheus, which considering the masses of envy I received from people I shared this with, was definitely a good thing!

Although ultimately I found the movie itself somewhat predictable storywise (and not because it's the prequel to Alien - for those people who don't know anything about it... Wikipedia is your friend) and the setup for a sequel a bit annoying,(although that would still be a prequel to the Alien films, confusing I know) I thoroughly enjoyed it visually and as an event it was well organised and casual, which is definitely my kind of thing!

Anyway, myself and a bunch of other "important" people (yes, that is sarcasm) were interviewed regarding our thoughts on Prometheus, and that's the video above.

The Life and Times of... Me. Plus some Ghost Recon Future Soldier thrown into the pot

So I have been somewhat scarce over the last month, my apologies for that, but starting a new job will do that to you! I'm not going to get into too much detail but suffice it to say that it's BEHIND the camera (for those people who keep asking me), the schedules are hectic and it's been somewhat of an adjustment to get settled.

I am however, attempting to be somewhat more well adjusted and kick start my gaming habits once again, along with some exciting new things in the works.

On that note, here are (finally!) my thoughts on Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. Yes, perhaps a little late to the party, but figured I'd get it out there nonetheless.



Future Soldier is the fifth game in the Ghost Recon franchise, a third person shooter that departs somewhat from the tactical shooting of the previous Ghost Recon games in order to become more... in your face. "Bombastic" I've heard it called.

I'd go into the narrative, but it's somewhat predictable and a bit tired. After all, there's only so many times you can reinvent the story of the arms dealer in Bolivia.

Or the local warlord in Zambia.

Or the nuclear missile in Russia.

Or the... you get the idea.




If you're playing this game for it's amazing story, go be amazed somewhere else. I'd linger more on the narrative failings, but well... I just really don't want to.

Moving on to gameplay: the stealth section are pretty impressive, and the squad deployment makes ensures that missions are given extra dimension and depth. The cover system particularly is easy and quite satisfying. The adaptive camouflage in particular is very well implemented. The camouflage is only in effect when you're moving slowly, which to be honest makes sense. When you're running, firing or taking damage, it disappears, so don't think you're going to wander around all invisible like, taking out your enemies easily. This is not that kind of game!

What is also pretty cool is the fact that there is no one method to completing a mission. With the wealth of tools at your disposal, including the drone, marking targets is simple and intuitive, and you are offered multiple methods to solving a problem. It is here that Future Soldier really excels, as it attempts to intellectually challenge and engage the player.




It unfortunately falls flat in many other respects however. The inevitable comparisons with games like Battlefield and most obviously the Call of Duty games, mean that Future Soldier comes off second best in this contest. If I felt that that MW3 was lacklustre and merely a reinvented version of MW2, then Future Soldier is the not quite as sophisticated cousin. Which is a pity because it draws heavily not only on games like MW3, but also on the Splinter Cell franchise (also Ubisoft) particularly when it comes to the stealth aspect of this game. In fact, the stealth missions are where it excels, making the rest of the game appear formulaic and stale.

Visually the game isn't bad looking, but somehow I expected a bit more. Decidedly average with some clunky facial animation. Impressive looking moments are completely counteracted by terrible cutscenes and inordinately long, boring sections where nothing of worth happens.




There's also a new feature called Gunsmith, which I didn't overly take advantage of myself, mainly because I couldn't really be bothered to spend that much time on this. If you're someone who likes to customise their weapons however, Gunsmith allows extensive, and I do mean extensive, customisation of optics, triggers, magazines, barrels, muzzles, stocks... ok, sorry I've lost interest now. Anyway, all the parts of a gun you can think of, you can pretty much customise to your hearts content. Yay.

Conclusion? Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is not bad... in fact it has moments that are quite lovely, but it's just... meh. Forgettable.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Call me a sceptic - 2012 ESA Survey - a rant

I'm always sceptical about the results of surveys - it's far too easy for us to lie in order to empower our own sense of self esteem.

A recent example (not necessarily of lying, but more a reinforcing of my scepticism) is the 2012 Entertainment Software Association survey, which tracks the stats of gamers in the United States. Below is the blurb from their website

  • The average gamer is 30 years old and has been playing for 12 years. Sixty-eight percent of gamers are 19 years of age or older. 
  • Forty-seven percent of all players are women, and women over 18 years of age are one of the industry's fastest growing demographics.
  • Today, adult women represent a greater portion of the game-playing population (30 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent).
  • Sixty-two percent of gamers play games with others, either in person or online. Seventy-eight percent of these gamers play with others at least one hour per week.
  • Thirty-three percent of gamers play social games.
  • Gamers on the go: 33 percent play games on their smartphones, and 25 percent play on their handheld device.
  • Ninety percent of the time parents are present when games are purchased or rented. Ninety-eight percent of parents feel the Entertainment Software Rating Board rating system is helpful in choosing games for their children. Seventy-three percent of parents believe that the parental controls available in all new video game consoles are useful.
  • Parents also see several benefits of entertainment software, with 52 percent saying video games are a positive part of their child's life. Sixty-six percent of parents believe that game play provides mental stimulation or education, 61 percent believe games encourage their family to spend time together, and 59 percent believe that game play helps their children connect with their friends.

Which sounds great right? Female gamers are on the increase. The average gamer is 30 years old. People like Al Gore are saying, "What we’re seeing in games is art at a world-class stage design that is almost unmatched anywhere else. it has been very exciting to me to see so many ideas that integrate social good and efforts to make the world a better place into games.”
—Al Gore.

Brilliant!

Until you reach this point: The survey states that 91% of parents pay attention to the content of the games their children play.

Stop and think about the debate that rages over violence in videogame (not going to go there right now!) How many of these parents do you think lied on this survey to assuage their own guilt about the fact that they don't monitor what their children play?

91% of [American] parents pay attention to the content of the games their children play.

91%


Ninety-one percent!

Really?

I'm in a different position personally I think, because firstly, yes I am a parent, but my son is not old enough to be watching anything other than the Mickey Mouse Club on Disney Junior and dancing to the songs. I'm also a gamer, and most of my friends who are parents are gamers, so we're all acutely aware of the age restrictions etc on the games we play. And thank goodness this is not a challenge I have to face in my life right now - having to put my foot down with my son and tell him he can't play MW3 because it's bad for him even though both his parents do. "It's a big people game."

But is this the case for most parents? My mother certainly didn't know what I was playing when I was young, through no fault of hers of course - I was sneaky like that! But as kids we all are! Plus of course, games simply weren't as high profile as they are now, so the fact that I could bypass the parental controls on Leisure Suit Larry was besides the point. She didn't even buy the game for me, I pirated it from a friend. Plus I was the only one in the house at the time who could really use the computer competently so how would she have known?

I'm always amazed by the people on Facebook who tell me that they're playing such and such a game, when their profile picture looks like they're maybe 14 at a push. Sure I'll recommend an 18 rated game to those people who are of an age, but I'm not going to condone you playing Max Payne 3 or whatever if you're not an adult. Yes you'll probably convince your parents to go out and buy it for you anyway - in fact your probably already have. And if you haven't I'm sure you're moaning to them that all your friends have it and why is life so unfair?

Being a teenager is ridden with these angsty, tormented moments. You'll get over it. And then you'll have to deal with it one day when your kids come to you whining about the fact that you never let them do anything and why are you so mean!? I remember having this same conversation with my mom when I was a whiny teenager.

People will happily stand up and shout about the fact that the games our children are playing are too violent, but instead of telling them, "You can play this when you're older", they cave, buy the game for their child, and then want to blame the gaming industry for producing violent 18 rated games that they allowed their 12 year old to play!

Forgive me for being sceptical of the ninety-one percent of parents who know about the content in the games their children are playing...

Final Words:
Don't watch this video if you're easily offended by swear words. But this is what I often want to tell people.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sorcery

I've been playing Sorcery off an on over the past couple of days. It was a game that originally lay on my "to play" pile for about a week, not because I wasn't interested, but rather because I just didn't quite get there.

And so finally, I managed to get around to not just playing through the first level, but actually getting to grips with the game and delving a little deeper.

Sadly though I'm not convinced this game is quite as good as it could have been. It has a very Harry Potter flavour to it, and after seeing the mistakes made here, I'm hoping that the developers of the upcoming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows game will learn from Sorcery.

That said, Sorcery is probably one of the best Move games on the market at the moment, considering that most of them generally consist of fitness games.


Sorcery tells the story of a magicians apprentice (where have we heard this one before) who unleashes a whole lotta evil on the world when he accidentally breaks an enchantment that he really shouldn't have meddled with in the first place.

What follows is the story of how Finn (that's you) must master his power and save his homeland from the evil Queen of Faerie. Somewhat predictable story, but no more so than pretty much every other fantasy "I'm a wizard" tale that's out there at the moment.

In case you couldn't guess by the characters names (Finn, Erline, Dash and Lady Everfair) the world is based on that of Irish mythology, and features a full cast of trolls, goblins, the undead and will 'o' the wisps.


Visually the cutscenes of Sorcery have a pretty awesome appeal, as they are rather like shadow puppets in nature, and the style of the gameplay is rather... nice. 

Much as I hate that word, I really can't say much more than that. It's ok, but it certainly didn't blow me away. It's pretty enough, but in the same manner as the most games nowadays.

The level design is also a bit of a let down. Whilst there are "secret" (I use this term loosely) areas to be discovered, you figure out very early on that the will 'o' wisps will lead you there so they're not really all that secret in the end. 

Overall you really are just proceeding from area to area, getting rid of enemies as you go and this can become somewhat tedious.

Now down to the big question - why the Playstation Move? 

Is it a novelty? Yes. 

Is it essential to the gameplay? I didn't think so. 

Is it intuitive? Definitely not!

Sure you might feel a bit more like a wizard waving a glowing wand about, but the process of moving and targeting enemies with your wand is clumsy and uncomfortable, and I didn't think too much was added to the game with this feature, other than my somewhat sore arm muscles after waving the Move around for a few hours.

The process of turning a key in a lock requires you to wiggle the Move around uncomfortably trying to get it to register, but mixing and drinking potions isn't overly awkward, although trying to do this during combat can be a little disconcerting.

Overall, if you're a parent you might want to go out and buy Sorcery for your kids as it's a decent enough story with less violence in it than many games, but honestly I don't think they'll get a whole lot of replay value out of it.


As someone who is rather fond of magic and monsters, I thought Sorcery had potential but sadly ended up a bit lacklustre overall.